Background: Tai Chi is rapidly gaining in popularity, worldwide. This study was performed to assess its impact on cardiovascular risk factors in comparison with resistance training exercises in elderly Chinese subjects.
Methods: A total of 207 healthy elderly participants (65-74 years, 113/207 (55%) men) were randomly assigned to one of three intervention groups: (1) Tai Chi, three times/week for 1 h/session (n = 64); (2) resistance training exercise, three times/week for 1 h/session (n = 65); (3) usual level of physical activity control group (n = 78). Anthropometric measures, dual X-ray densitometry body composition, blood pressure, lipids, glycaemic and insulin sensitivity indices were measured at baseline and 12 months. Repeated-measures analysis of variance (anova) was used to assess the between-group changes using a last-observation-carried-forward intention-to-treat approach.
Results: A total of 180 (87.0%) subjects completed the study. No significant changes were identified in the Tai Chi group compared to the resistance training or control group. Of the primary outcomes, only the improvement in the insulin sensitivity index differed, being significantly greater in the resistance training than in the control group [mean difference 0.018 (95% confidence interval ( CI) 0.000-0.037) mmol glucose/min, P = 0.02), and tending to be greater than in the Tai Chi group (mean difference 0.019 (95% CI 0.000-0.038) mmol glucose/min, P < 0.06).
Conclusion: Tai Chi had no significant effect on any measure compared to the controls, whereas resistance training improved the insulin sensitivity index in this 12-month study.